Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘November

Feeling Wintery

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We did not get much of a chance to ease our way into winter this month. This morning’s single-digit low temperature is the second time already in November that we have faced such surprisingly cold air. The average high and low for this area in November is 40°/25°(F).

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My favorite weather blog is predicting a brown Thanksgiving next week, so we are looking forward to a return to more normal high temperatures in the days ahead, to melt away the remnants of last week’s snowfall.

The horses have been quick to develop their thicker winter coats and appear to be adapting to the cold without difficulty. Delilah loves the snow and romps with visible excitement, frequently burying her snout in the powder and coming up with a wonderfully frosty nose.

The chickens are already over most of their apprehension about walking in the snow, so we aren’t too concerned about them. I noticed recently that the size of one roost (there are actually two) seems to best accommodate 8 hens, based on how our current brood situate themselves.

Unfortunately, we currently have 9 birds.

Last one in tends to set off a chain reaction of chickens wrangling for position, with one dropping down when a 9th barges in line. Occasionally, a Wyandotte will choose to hurdle them all and perch against the wall on a stud above the window.

Last winter, we only had three hens and they didn’t have any problem fitting. You’d think they would split up and use both roosts, but I haven’t seen that yet.

For the first time in the two years we’ve had chickens, we think we may have a sick hen. Her change in behavior started about the same time the snow arrived, so it wasn’t clear at first that there was any issue beyond not wanting to walk in the snow. Now that the other eight have returned to normal behavior, the malaise of the ninth has become more conspicuous.

She doesn’t want to leave the coop. It is hard to track her eating and drinking, so we are not sure if this is a serious illness or something minor that will resolve itself over time. We’ll start observing her with increased scrutiny to see if we learn anything more.

We have been so intent on tracking the potential predators that threaten the hens, it would be a shame to instead lose one to illness. We hope to do everything we can to prevent that from happening.

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Written by johnwhays

November 13, 2018 at 7:00 am

Looking Brown

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When I got home from work yesterday, I looked at the thermometer outside to find the high and low temperatures for the day. It ranged from the warmest being 32.9°(F) and the coldest, 32.0°. Yummy.

It’s going to be a struggle sweeping up the wet leaves from the grass if the winter weather that showed up this week decides to stay.

Most of the ground is still too warm for the snow to last. The image of our woods below provides a clear demonstration of the difference between the relative warmth of the ground, compared to the above-ground branches that are cold enough the snow doesn’t melt.

Supposedly, the ground will have a chance to freeze in the days ahead, as the forecast predicts a number of days in a row with high temperatures not making it above the freezing point.

Other than the disaster this will present for me with regard to leaves in the yard, it will be a welcome change from the current swampy conditions on our trails. We’ve got standing water in multiple places. The lime-screenings around the barn overhang are starting to become a mud fest from heavy hoof traffic.

I am ready for it all to become rock hard. The squishing is becoming tiresome.

Look at the color palette of these three pictures. Does anyone else associate November with the color brown?

Last night, I was listening to music on the radio in the house and more than once, Delilah reacted as if she heard something outside. At one point, she barked, like someone was here.

I shut off the radio and let her hear the quiet.

We went to the front door so I could show her there was nobody around. She then ran around to the door to the garage. I’ve seen this routine many times. She was looking for Cyndie to arrive home.

I opened the door to the garage to show her it was dark in there. I made the mistake of turning on the light, which allowed Delilah to see Cyndie’s car and get revved up over what that usually means.

How do I explain to Delilah that Cyndie got a ride to the airport and her car has been parked in the garage for the last eight days?

I guess enough days have passed since Delilah last saw Cyndie that she is beginning to figure mom must be coming home soon.

Just two more days!

That might be all the time needed for enough snow to fall that Cyndie will never know I didn’t get around to removing all the leaves.

Well, never, until next spring, that is.

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Prudent Preparations

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I did salvage my pride on Sunday by getting out in the warmth to knock off a few more winter preparation steps. After getting the Grizzly back from the shop with fresh fluids and cleaned up brakes, it occurred to me that I had yet to install the new beefier cable on the winch. That’s a chore that would be much nicer to do when it’s not freezing cold outside.

The primary use for that winch is to raise and lower the snowplow blade. That involves a heavy repetition of back and forth on a very short length of the cable. The original was old and brittle which made it susceptible to breaking, which it did, frequently –almost always at an essential time while clearing snow.

Fixing that usually involves working in the cold and after dark. A broken cable is always an unwelcome incident, but at a critical point in plowing, the impact is intensified.

When all else fails, get a bigger cable.

I hadn’t been working long when the chickens showed up to see if my project involved anything they could eat. I’m guessing they were disappointed by not finding anything. I stepped into the shop for a second and when I returned, there was a fresh pile of chicken sh*t on my pliers.

That’s a skill, dropping it so squarely on the tiny surface of the tool. I was duly impressed and totally disgusted.

With the new cable installed and ready to lift the plow, I moved on to the swapping out the summer tires for the winter set. That beast is now ready for the snow season.

Before we even get to that, the ATV and its trailer will be put to use this weekend transporting chainsaws, ropes and gear down by the road. It will also be hauling loads of cut wood back up to the wood shed, and picking up the inevitable forgotten tools that were missed the first and second trips of the day.

If a winch and heavy-duty cable turns out to be needed, it’ll be ready for that, too.

I just hope the more aggressive winter tires don’t completely chew up the not-so-frozen ground. I didn’t think to prepare for top soil that has been re-melting in the late November 60° afternoons.

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Written by johnwhays

November 28, 2017 at 7:00 am

Sunday Two

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Wintervale‘s November version of the Second Sunday event is coming up this weekend. The theme Cyndie has prepared involves “Gratefulness Collages.” In the month of giving thanks for our bounty, I expect the creative arts project will most likely be well augmented with bountiful offerings from her kitchen, too.

Materials are supplied, but if you’ve got any interesting old magazines lying around, feel free to donate them to the cause.

As of last night, the forecast for Sunday looked sunny, which would be nice for an afternoon stroll to see what inspiration the horses might offer. Of course, the chickens will be eager to say hello, too.

They love company as much as we do!

Make sure to let us know if you plan to stop in for a visit between noon and 3:00. Cyndie’s contact information can be found at the link for Second Sundays, above.

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Written by johnwhays

November 7, 2017 at 7:00 am

Adding Siding

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Record warmth yesterday, and we spent almost all of it chipping away at the somewhat tedious task of siding the chicken coop with salvaged lumber. It feels a little like I’ve made this project more complicated than it deserves, but I justify it in my mind as a good exercise in teaching myself carpentry skills.

I’ve never tried to make cabinets and had no clue about mounting a hinged door. We started small and did the narrow opening for accessing the poop board. It turned out a little too tight, but filing edges has been enough to make it work.dscn5427e

Next, we hung the three-hinge people door. I’m still unsure of the essential details that need to be considered, but somehow I seem to have faked my way through it and ended up with a door the appears to work perfectly.

Working in the hot sun was almost too uncomfortable, but since it is November, it seemed a little inconsiderate to frame that hardship as a complaint.

The warming of our planet does come with some short-term perks in the interim before whatever large-scale calamity will eventually doom civilization as we know it.

dscn5429eUsing the boards we salvaged from pallets, we are now slowly but surely working our way up the walls with a piecemeal patchwork of siding. It is creative fun for a while, and then gets a little too tricky around openings and edges that require excessive amounts of measuring and cutting to fit.

Whose idea was it to make this thing so complicated, anyway?

Good things come to those who wait, and with that, I expect to be happy with this mansion of a chicken coop when it is finally completed.

More importantly, it is my hope that some chickens will be very, very happy with it, too.

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Written by johnwhays

November 6, 2016 at 8:24 am

Beneath Trees

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After a bit of a pause in construction, I was stepping out to work on the chicken coop again yesterday, now that Cyndie is home to lend a helping hand. We were taking advantage of the very summer-like weather gracing our region this first week of November.

Striding across the yard I was suddenly struck by how distinctly different the carpet of leaves was within just a few steps. Photo op!

dscn5414eBeneath a big old oak tree that holds most of its dried leaves through the winter.

dscn5413eNext tree over is a dominant poplar that lost a significant portion of its top in a storm during the summer.

dscn5417eOn the other side of the driveway, the grove of maples create a thick layer of light crunchy playfulness that is a delight to walk through.

Another example of the micro-environments that collectively make up the paradise where we live. We call it Wintervale Ranch.

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Written by johnwhays

November 5, 2016 at 8:45 am

Goal Achieved

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I was wearing a short-sleeve tee-shirt and mowing grass in the warm afternoon sunshine on November 1st. Whaaaaat?

It’s for real. Of course, I also then went inside and watched some baseball on television afterward. It’s like a summer with no end. Something tells me it might make winter’s inevitable arrival come on with an abrupt switch when it finally hits.img_ip1764e

So, my main motivation to get out on the lawn tractor was to test out my latest landscaping efforts and see how navigable the path around the southern fence lines is.

It worked! Not flawlessly, but it did work. I have wanted to accomplish this goal for a long time, so this was very satisfying.

There are two spots in particular where I needed to get off the tractor to lift it over a too-steep hazard where there are runoff trenches across the path. If I want to be able to drive across these, I’m going to need to modify them to create much more gradual sloping edges.

That can be done, but it’s not imperative that it happen right away. I’m kinda hoping our grass will stop growing and the snow season will arrive soon enough that I won’t need to be driving around there again until next spring.

img_ip1772eAfter I completed a return trip along that fence line, I turned the corner and was headed toward the labyrinth garden. There, I discovered two deer casually grazing the variety of growing treats within. They looked up at me with mild curiosity, surveying my approach. It surprised me a bit that they didn’t act alarmed or run off.

So I just kept rolling toward them, pulling out my phone to see if I could capture them in a picture to share with Cyndie.

They’re there, but the natural concealment of their coloring is very noticeable, because they are mostly not!

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Written by johnwhays

November 2, 2016 at 6:00 am